No, not the egg-laying kind, although I can be a picky eater at times. I am talking about the Ride Chicken… those of us who cannot even fathom stepping one foot on a certain WDW Attraction because just the thought makes our palms sweat. So if you are like me, or know of someone who suffers from this ailment, tag along in the life of a Ride Chicken.
It started as a child, and sadly not at Walt Disney World, but at our local Six Flags Great America. Whether I went with my family, or on the local High School field trip, I was the chicken of the group. I was terrified of heights, speed, basically anything that started with roller and ended in coaster. I would sit on a bench, and pretty much be bored out of my mind. Again, this was a time before smart phones existed, so I had no opportunity to knock out a couple of rounds of “Angry Birds” while waiting. I would watch the happy faces coming off the rides, and I would be a bit sad that I didn’t try it… but in reality I felt better knowing both feet were on the ground.
First trip to Walt Disney World… my brother and father tried desperately to talk me into riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Even though the coaster stays on the ground, meaning no large dips in the air or corkscrews, the sharp turns and the screaming I heard coming from it terrified me. Thankfully my mom was a ride chicken too, so we went shopping instead- just as exciting and I get to walk away with something to wear.
Now, when you coax a ride chicken onto a ride they aren’t prepared for… one of two things can happen. One, they will love it, or two, they will curse you and the day you were born for making them go on that god forsaken ride. I have lovingly experienced both sides of this coin. On my first trip to Florida, I was able to bypass the scary stuff at WDW… but my family coaxed me onto King Kong at Universal Studios. My luck… the line for this ride was out the door. For 60 grueling minutes, I weaved through the neverending line of graffitied walls while listening to the thumping of Kong’s footsteps in the attraction. When I finally got into the red trolley car, I was pretty much ready to pass out. The first time we came across Kong’s path…I was scared. Now, at 17, you would think I would have the clear understanding that this mechanical monkey was not really going to rip me to shreds… yet here I was, screaming my head off! But, it would be when Kong grabbed the car, his face in my face, that I was prepared to leap from the car. My dad would forever remember this moment, as he watched me practically push 8 year olds next to me over to get away from the large monkey teeth. I would ride King Kong with my husband on our first trip there together, and thankfully I was able to deal with it much better.
Test Track and Space Mountain were the first rides that Jassie and I both agreed we could live without. Jessie was terrified of the speed of the car and the sound it made outside the ride, and with Space Mountain it being a coaster that was also in the dark was a no-no as well. The Space Mountain area gave us a chance to opt out for Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and TTA instead, but the Test Track area is in a corner of Epcot that doesn’t have a ton more to do. Jessie and I weren’t about to touch Mission: Space next door, so we would shop Mouse Gears for awhile. Depending on how long Carl and Belle would be stuck in line, we would shop and then play outside the Test Track area. We also got really good at finding all of the Hidden Mickeys in the gift shop and car area near the ride exit. So, it can pay off to be a Ride Chicken- you may never know what treasures you can find by just hanging out.
Over time, the feathers of my chicken suit would start to molt. I don’t know if it was because I was older, or maybe over time you just start to lose the fear, but eventually I would conquer most of the Disney Mountains, Test Track, Mission: Space, and this past trip… I FINALLY managed to get to on Tower of Terror. I am really not sure why NOW I could handle them, but so many times my heart would beat out of my chest at the thought of riding any of them. Splash Mountain happened because of our Jessie begging us to try it as a family- and we did- and she cried and screamed. Needless to say, she won’t be going back on for awhile. BTMRR would happen also the same trip, which was just a “Hey Belle, want to ride Big Thunder with me?” We had such a blast, and I would ride it many times after.
Test Track would happen as family, again with the coaxing of my wonderful husband who said “No, Jessie, this ride is not that fast.” These would be the last words that my dear Jessie would believe for awhile from her father, as again, she screamed and cried after the first major turn of the ride. I loved it, but was too scared for Jessie and how she was handling it. I would return, but Jessie would hang out with Carl or I, and we would ride with Belle on future trips.
Mission: Space would be a “timing is everything” kind of moment. We were walking past it on a warm Orlando night, and I thought “Hey, no line, I’m going to try it.” The family wanted nothing to do with it, so they hung out in the courtyard area, while I boarded the intense side. I was quite excited to not only ride something new, but feel the weightlessness. I was also incredibly scared, but some big guys from GA were trying to calm me down as we were waiting to board our separate shuttles. I breathed through it, I didn’t close my eyes, and I made it just fine. Again, I was happy to check it off my list.
Tower of Terror was the icing on the cake, as that ride has always spooked me at DHS. For any ride chicken, you must know where the chicken exits are at all times, and secondly, having support with you is key or I would have never made it off that ride in one piece. Remember, support the ride chicken in your life.
So what have I learned? I learned that being fearful of something is okay in any stage of life. In time, the fear will subside and courage will learn to overcome it. You have to ask yourself or someone why they are afraid of a certain ride and either help them overcome it or support their decision to not ride at all. Pushing won’t work, encouragement will. Being a ride chicken still these days, I still won’t ride Everest, Space Mountain, or Rock N Rollercoaster. But, I know the exhilaration and excitement I felt riding the ones I was fearful of before was well worth the try- so who knows? Moving closer to WDW will definitely give me many opportunities to try, and also help my Jessie work through hers as well.